Sport Tourism – Aarhus, Denmark

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Aarhus, Denmark: How sport contributes to the development of a city’s sustainability brand

In recent years – and especially since it was recognised Capital of Culture in 2017 – Aarhus has become an internationally renowned‚ ‘event city’. In the sports field, the city hosted the SportAccord Convention, major world championships in sailing, cross-country running, international golf and the World Badminton Championships.

While developing tourism through the hosting of sports events is usually a common pillar for host cities, the City of Aarhus also decided to use sports events as an opportunity to draw the world’s attention to issues of sustainability and climate change mitigation. So, what are the headlines of Aarhus’s events and sport tourism strategy? How is sustainability integrated strategically and implemented in a real case study? And how does this strategic decision shape the city’s brand and thus the development of sports tourism?

A new event strategy leading the way

In the spring of 2020, Aarhus Events, the City of Aarhus’ one-stop shop for event organisers, released a new event strategy 2020-2025. This event strategy aims to set the framework for the city’s event ambitions and contribute to the realisation of the city’s visions. To achieve this, it strategically focuses on three main objectives:

  1. Experiences and community: events must be inclusive and attractive to Aarhus residents, business owners and visitors. Above all, the event strategy should contribute to providing quality and memorable experiences.
  2. Growth: events contribute to the international awareness and recognition of the city, the region and Denmark. In addition, events should contribute to the overall growth and economic development of the city, as they can create an international brand image for Aarhus and attract, in both the short term and the long term, national and international visitors with economic benefits provided through tourism, overnight stays, consumption.
  3. Development: events can be a means of supporting local and national strategic efforts and policies. In a short period of time, when international, national and local visitor and media attention is high, events can help to highlight and contribute to the realisation of important strategic initiatives and the policies of the municipality in areas such as sustainability.

A selection of Aarhus’s assessment criteria linked to sport tourism for deciding to host an event

The City of Aarhus has developed a set of parameters to help them make the right decision when it comes to deciding which event to host. There are four specific parameters that are of importance for the development of sports tourism:

  • VISIBILITY, BRANDING AND MEDIA EXPOSURE to assess whether an event provides an opportunity to highlight the values for which the city wants to be known or whether the event includes initiatives that are relevant to the City’s objectives.
  • ECONOMY to assess whether the possible municipal financial impact will have a spin-off effect in tourism and branding, e.g., in the form of overnight stays and in the city’s retail trade and restaurants.
  • TIMING to access whether events have a link to business tourism initiatives and other similar actions in the urban community can ensure a year-round focus.
  • SUSTAINABILITY AND GREEN TRANSFORMATION to assess whether an event can be used as a showcase for multiple new smart initiatives, and a sustained focus on green transition which can help make global goals a part of everyday life for event guests.

Leading the green transition: how events can help transform the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into ‚everyday goals’

The current desire for green transition is unmistakeable, and the event sector, with its short-term, orientation towards what are often large crowds, can contribute to the raising of awareness of sustainable actions and green transition where the event visitor is positively influenced to change his or her daily behaviour. Behavioural change can occur, for example, when the guest has a relevant personal experience, after which the SDGs become easier to adopt as a citizen.

In close collaboration with VisitAarhus, Aarhus University’s Conference Department and WorldPerfect, Aarhus Events has developed a Green Conference and Event Handbook – a guide to working strategically and practically with sustainability.

“One of Aarhus’s strengths is that we can and want to work together across sectors. As a city, we are particularly strong when we join forces in sustainability and green experience economy. For this reason, Aarhus can help set new goals and standards for how to integrate sustainability in events and use the power of events to create actors of change” according to Charlotte Kirk Elkjær, Chief Advisor, Aarhus Events, City of Aarhus.

The handbook provides a concrete guide for actors in Aarhus on how sustainability and the green transition can be approached in the areas of transport, waste, food and drink, electricity consumption, volunteering, and innovation.

From strategy to action: the case of the Ocean Race 2023

Building on its experience as host of the Hempel Aarhus Sailing World Championships in 2018 and the Tall Ships Races in 2019, the city has developed a multitude of initiatives to not only position itself as a sustainable city, but also to raise awareness and change the behaviour of visitors, participants and the business community. Let’s have a look at Aarhus’ plan to draw public attention to sustainability through the hosting of a stopover of the around-the-world Ocean Race 2023.

The Sustainability Island

The Sustainability Island will be a physical urban space of involvement and experiences where innovative exhibitors and entrepreneurs will showcase and activate their solutions towards a more sustainable world. These solutions will also be demonstrated to the visitors in the form of case presentations.

The Aarhus Sustainability Summit

The Aarhus Sustainability Summit will consist of the following components:

  • A ’General Public Summit’ to turn Sustainable Development Goals into ‘Everyday Goals’;
  • A ‘Youth Summit’ giving young people a voice of their own and making them actors of change.

Changing the behaviours of visitors

All visitors will bring home sustainability stories, which may inspire a more sustainable lifestyle, just as Aarhus will be showcasing things often taken for granted in Denmark, such as:

  • Efficient sewer systems and how consumers can help make them even better;
  • Access to clean water right out of Danish taps, and how consumers can help ensure that this will continue to be the case in Denmark in the future;
  • Excellent bicycle culture, and how to push for further development in this field.

Insights from Pia Lange Christensen, CEO, VisitAarhus

“At VisitAarhus, we have a broad focus in the work of attracting tourists to the region. Major events, including major sports events, are an important asset in branding Aarhus as an active and vibrant city and a fantastic means to create international awareness. Attraction of events are also very important for the entire development of the city.

Tourism is not a goal for us, but a means to create results on several parameters: as a basis for employment, settlements, physical development, infrastructure, attraction of talents, quality of life and investments.

Aarhus is a sustainable destination. The mission of VisitAarhus is to develop tourism and promote the Aarhus region as a sustainable destination for holiday and business tourism. We have just published a new strategy for tourism in the Aarhus region, which is based on a sustainable fundament. Among other things, we are working on the green choices to be easy and accessible for guests. We wish to increase visibility and motivation among guests to use the sustainable offers and work hard to create incentives among tourist businesses to perform a green transition of their products and services”.

To learn more 

Visit Aarhus

Green Conference and Event Handbook

The Ocean Race 2023

The Ocean Race- Racing with purpose